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VETS INDEXES: Supporting America's Veterans

Employers often hire veterans without fully understanding what former service members bring to the shop floor or corporate office. Traits like adaptability, integrity, advanced technical skills, and the ability to sidestep steep learning curves make veterans appealing to employers, but so can the goodwill that veteran-supporting companies generate by hiring former military personnel.

“We had been discussing ways we could give back to vets … We started the see the human factors side of investing. There’s a lot of evidence around union capital and how it’s good for business, but what about veterans?” said Karl Snyder, CMT, managing director of VETS Indexes. “I think sometimes people don’t realize the diverse nature of veterans. The background that they’ve brought is extremely diverse and the makeup of this talent pool is extremely diverse.”

vets400x500VETS Indexes takes a unique spin on the environmental, social, and governance investing model by building and promoting indexes built around firms that strongly support America’s veterans.
“At the heart of our suite of Indexes is a core belief that the mission critical mindset, unique skill sets and specialized training that U.S. Military Veterans bring to the workplace are differentiating factors in an enterprise’s overall performance,” VETS Indexes website explains. “While these attributes and the Veterans themselves are not the only driving force behind any company’s success, we believe that the recognition of their value by these firms indicates a more well governed and more well run corporation.”

VETS Indexes, based in New York, launched its flagship index in 2017. The firm works with The Military Times—a privately held newspaper that covers the military and veterans’ issues—to develop indexes based on the paper’s Best for Vets Employers Survey. The firm has launched two indexes so far, The Military Times Best for Vets Index (VETSX) and The Military Times Best for VETS Total Return Index (VETSXTR), with more in the works, Snyder said, adding that VETS Indexes follows a core set of rules in choosing the companies to be included.

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VETS Indexes requires that the publicly held firms in its index products have a market capitalization of $200 million—Snyder noted that number might change in the future—and make The Military Times’ survey three years in a row prior to inclusion. Firms also must trade at least $1 million in equity per day. The indexes currently count 44 member companies, he said.

ESG investing is a much-debated topic in the financial services world. According to ThinkAdvisor.com, an investment information and research clearinghouse, the evidence remains inconclusive that ESG investing boosts returns. The prevailing hypothesis among ESG boosters, however, is that a firm that runs itself ethically will suffer fewer scandals and therefore be immune to churn in stock prices that a major controversy—for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010—can cause. Boosters also say that the ESG research, so far, has not fully taken stock of the long-term gains from socially conscious investments. ESG also, in recent years, has become a tool for socially conscious investors to “vote” with their money by investing in firms that care for the environment, social causes, or which maintain transparent and ethical governance structures.

“A lot of people are considering investing with their beliefs in mind,” Snyder said. “A lot can be said that ESG investments do outperform over time.”

VETS Indexes used a similar concept in the development of its products. Investors who have shown interest in the indexes tend to be conscious of veterans issues, interested in using money for a good cause, or looking to create a “virtuous cycle” in which they profit while benefiting discharged service members in the civilian workforce. Feedback, so far, has been positive, Snyder said, but the firm still needs to conduct more extensive outreach.

“Everybody loves the idea, but right now we’re in the stage of getting the concept out,” he said.

VETS Indexes lives its values as well. The firm contributes a portion of net profits to veterans charities and organizations that support military families. The firm targets 20 percent of net profits, with a minimum contribution of 5 percent, Snyder said. The firm’s social mission should not come as a surprise, given that the entire management team boasts some connection to the military (Snyder is a Marine Corps veteran).

Snyder said that VETS Indexes plans to continue working with The Military Times to refine the employer survey and develop new index products, and that he hopes to build a veteran-supporting investment ecosystem.

“I’m really looking at this as a virtuous cycle where the index takes off, companies take off, and more companies want to fill out The Military Times’ survey,” he said.

 

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